Boston — Police responding to a call about “two black males” breaking into a home near Harvard University ended up arresting the man who lives there — Henry Louis Gates Jr., the nation’s pre-eminent black scholar.
Gates had forced his way through the front door because it was jammed, his lawyer said. Colleagues call the arrest last Thursday afternoon a clear case of racial profiling.
Cambridge police say they responded to the well-maintained two-story home after a woman reported seeing “two black males with backpacks on the porch,” with one “wedging his shoulder into the door as if he was trying to force entry.”
By the time police arrived, Gates was already inside. Police say he refused to come outside to speak with an officer, who told him he was investigating a report of a break-in.
“Why, because I’m a black man in America?” Gates said, according to a police report.
Gates — the director of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research — initially refused to show the officer his identification, but then gave him a Harvard University ID card, according to police.
“Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me that I had not heard the last of him,” the officer wrote.
He was arrested on a disorderly conduct charge after police said he “exhibited loud and tumultuous behavior.” He was released later that day on his own recognizance. An arraignment was scheduled for Aug. 26. Police refused to comment on the arrest Monday.
Gates, 58, also refused to speak publicly Monday, referring calls to his attorney, fellow Harvard scholar Charles Ogletree.
Ogletree said Gates gave the officer his driver’s license and Harvard identification after being asked to prove he was a Harvard professor and lived at the home, but became upset when the officer continued to question him.
“He was shocked to find himself being questioned and shocked that the conversation continued after he showed his identification,” Ogletree said.
Ogletree declined to say whether he believed the incident was racially motivated, saying “I think the incident speaks for itself.”
Some of Gates’ African-American colleagues say the arrest is part of a pattern of racial profiling in Cambridge.